archiv of the category soul

 

an interview with Malena Perez


Be prepared for something big when Malena Perez debut album Stars will be released next month. It’s a fantastic musically varied album and Malena is a real sweet person who flew to California to make some new photos specially for jazz-not-jazz…ha ha, not really but she provided me with some new photos. And look for the new 12″ single Praise The Day coming this month. It will feature the original version Malena did with Osunlade, as well as a dub remix version that Osunlade did himself.
In her jazz-not-jazz interview Malena talks about her musical background, how she met the musicians involved on Stars, her own label Cubanita Groove Records and much more.

Q: Please tell me something about yourself. We are you coming from musically? Who has influenced you?

Malena Pérez: Wow. I guess I would have to say that I’ve been inspired by Life itself! My mother and father both surrounded me with music growing up. And on a personal level, I’ve been through some really difficult experiences that have found peace and a welcome place in my songs. There is nothing like the different facets of the human experience to inspire poetry or lyrics! Over the past several years I’ve been listening to Amel Larrieux’s solo albums, Fertile Ground (fronted by Navasha Daya, who I have so much respect for!), Jill Scott, Minnie Riperton, Eva Cassidy, Everything But the Girl, Flora Purim (who I actually got to meet at Temple Bar in Sta. Monica last fall - such a surreal experience!), and deep house music like the Naked Music albums (i.e., Blue Six/Beautiful Tomorrow). I also love Kyoto Jazz Massive. I’ve always been inspired by Latin women who have set the standard for quality vocals and really know how to express emotion through their art - Gloria Estefan’s Mi Tierra album is amazing!…Celia Cruz, Omara Portuondo, Cesaria Evora, Astrud Gilberto, Susana Baca…these women have been and will continue to inspire me musically. I also have significant choral training in liturgical music, which is why those (I’ve been told “angelic” - and perhaps prayerful) qualities of my voice are sometimes really evident. I really just never feel more free than when I am singing, and I feel that I am continually given messages of love and healing to share with others!

Q: You sing in English and Spanish. I wonder if you also speak German. After all your mother is German. Did your parents raised you speaking three languages? And how important were your parents for your decision to pursue a career as musican?

Malena Pérez: I was raised speaking English and Spanish, both of which I am fluent in. When I was little, my Cuban grandmother - my “Abuela Elsa” - kept me during the weekdays when my parents were at work, and she spoke to me only in Spanish. And I can speak some Mandarin Chinese - but not German! My parents never pushed me toward one career or another, though I have to say that my mother has been extremely supportive of my decision to pursue my passion and calling to share these gifts. I think she always “knew” that I would end up on a creative path. And my father is an avid lover of music, so I guess I get that from him! I definitely have my mother’s entrepreneurial spirit and couldn’t be happier pursuing what I love to do and helping others in the process.

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Jazzhole Poet’s Walk


It’s May, we haven’t even reached the middle of the year yet and there are already quite a few albums that will surely end in my top list of 2006 like Andile Yenana’s Who’s Got The Map, Natural Selection’s Come On Over, Jhelisa’s A Primitive Guide To Being There, Grupo X’s Food For Your Latin Soul, Malena Perez’s Stars or Karen Bernod’s Life @ 360 Degrees to name just a few. The new album by Jazzhole, Poet’s Walk, is another strong contender for album of the year. This time it has been released in Europe first by Soul Brother Records, who also featured two cuts of Jazzhole’s Circle Of The Sun album on the Organic Soul 3 compilation and who released Marlon Saunder’s Enter My Mind album in Europe. An US release is scheduled for July 11th.
Just one thing about Soul Brother Records and the sticker they’ve put on the CD’s jewel case. They’re citing three reviews and two of them compare Poet’s Walk to “the best album Maxwell never made” and “the second album that Maxwell should have made.” Come on B&S (once known as Blues & Soul…that must have really been in a previous life when I’ve read Blues & Soul, nowadays they start reviews with “Don’t be put off by the name [Jazzhole]“…how any lover of soul music can be put off by jazz is beyond me) and Echoes, these comparisons do neither this album nor Jazzhole as a band nor Marlon Saunders as singer any justice. Jazzhole and Marlon Saunders both have shown more than once - actually this is Jazzhole’s fifth album release - that they can deliver the goods, for example listen to Marlon’s second album A Groove So Deep. And besides, this album just isn’t Urban Hang Suite Part II.
If they’ve called it Marlon’s third solo album than I would agree. While Jazzhole engaged different singers on their previous releases this time it’s all about Marlon as a the voice of Jazzhole. So the idea of a collective with different voices and styles is somehow gone. But if the result is such a deep, soulful and great album as this one than I hardly can argue against this decision.
All but two cuts were written by Marlon Saunders, Warren Rosenstein and John Pondel, the core members of Jazzhole. The two cover versions are great updates of Boz Scaggs’ Lowdown and the SOS Band’s Take Your Time (Do It Right).
It’s really hard to pick a favourite here. All songs ooze soul and quality. There’s the midtempo delight All The Ways, maybe the one song that evoked the aforementioned comparisons to Maxwell, or the groovy Jonesing spiced up by Dave Binney on saxophone. The gentle latin inspired It Would Have Been Enough is a captivating duet with Yemen-native vocalist Michal Cohen and a great tune for a hot summer evening. The stripped down ballad The Slipping Of Time with Marlon and John Pondel on guitar only is just too good to be true.
The song Timeless sums up what the music on Poet’s Walk is all about: strong songs, organic instrumentation and a great singer. In a nutshell it’s soul music with a timeless quality, that you can listen to over and over again. A real must-have for any serious soul music fan.

Tracklisting of Jazzhole Poet’s Walk: 1. Poet’s Walk/ 2. All The Ways/ 3. Jonesing/ 4. Lowdown/ 5. One More Time/ 6. It Would Have Been Enough/ 7. The Slipping Of Time/ 8. Do It Right/ 9. Timeless/ 10. All The Ways (Dub) | released 2006 by Beave Music/Soul Brother Records

For more infos visit jazzhole.com, marlonsaunders.com and soulbrother.co.uk.

[If you want to discuss Jazzhole’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

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Malena Pérez Stars


This delightful album arrived just at the right time. With Nothern Germany skipping spring in 2006 and heading straight for pre-summer madness Malena Pérez’s debut album Stars offers the perfect soundtrack. This album has summer written all over it.
Only a few days ago I reviewed the Kenny Dope remix of Chase The Butterflies and while this version is a great latin house song, featured on Stars as a bonus track by the way, it only represents a small section of what Malena Pérez has to offer musically. In fact, now that I know the original album version I’d say this is the better version!
Malena Perez first single, the Michael Johnson produced Free To Fly, is also featured on Stars, and it’s a deep no-nonsense house inspired song with Malena singing in Spanish and English. The midtempo offbeat soul of Surrender shows that Malena feels at home in different music genres. Tomorrow is another highlight, this gently flowing latin breeze will certainly appeal to those who loved the second disc of Bah Samba’s double album 4.
Cubanita Groove is one of the best name-dropping grooves I have ever heard. Here we have Malena mentioning all her heros like Flora Purim, Sade, Minnie Riperton, Maya Angelou, Amel Larrieux, Tracey Thorn or Mercedes Sosa.
The next single, Praise The Day, is Malena’s collaboration with Osunlade. The result is an inspiring, percussion driven deep house affair that makes me wish Malena Perez and Osunlade would work together more often. Confesión is another house winner, this time Malena joined Alix Alvarez in the studio. Monet on flute gives this song that special something. The album’s title track, Stars, is a welcome ballad with just Malena and sparse keys. Another highlight comes with What Do I Do, a modern soul song on which Malena reminds me a lot of Julie Dexter on her Dexterity album. And that’s not because Julie had a song called What Do I Do on this album as well. Malena’s own What Do I Do sounds more like a mixture of Julie’s Moving On meets a slower version of Ketch A Vibe.
Gracias A La Vida is - like Stars - an unornamented song with just Malena’s voice and one instrument. Here it’s a stringed instrument, which gives the song an artistic feeling and actually that’s the one song on Stars I needed a few listenings to really get into it. The hidden track, How Can I Keep From Singing, is a heartfelt a cappella with a nice gospel feeling.
In a nutshell Stars is a great debut album by Malena Pérez full of superduper deep house latin soul and then some and it’s THE summer album of 2006.

Tracklisting of Malena Pérez Stars: 1. Oriente/ 2. Free To Fly/ 3. Chase The Butterflies/ 4. Surrender/ 5. Tomorrow/ 6. Cubanita Groove/ 7. Praise The Day/ 8. Confesion/ 9. Stars/ 10. What Do I Do/ 11. Nshala/ 12. Gracias A La Vida/ 13. Chase The Butterflies (Kenny Dope Remix)/14. How Can I Keep From Singing (hidden track) | released July 11th, 2006 by Cubanita Groove Records

For more infos visit cubanitagroove.com, giantstep.net and myspace.com/malenaperez.

[If you want to discuss Malena Pérez’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

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an interview with Karen Bernod


Just when I thought I have achieved everything with the jazz-not-jazz website with the recently published Sandra St. Victor interview (and now I can die…just kidding), Karen Bernod comes along with her answers to my questions. I just love the internet!
To put yourself in the right mood for Karen’s excellent new album Life @ 360 Degrees, which is scheduled for a release on May 15th by Dome Records in Europe, continue reading and learn amongst others what Karen has to say about her new album, why her collaboration with Greg Spooner is almost scary and what connection Karen has with Will Dowining.

Q: Six years have passed since you have released your debut album Some Othaness For U. Why the long hiatus? What happened in these six years?

Karen Bernod: Well..has it been that long? Wow!! I’ve been basically working towards this day. Perfecting my craft, experiencing new life endeavors and traveling the world abroad accompanying other artists, making new connections, and creating new music. I guess that’s why it doesn’t seem THAT long to me. But you’re right it’s been quite a while! :-)

Q: You’ve produced/written the new album with Greg Spooner again. Please tell me how you’ve met him and what’s the musical vision you share?

Karen Bernod: Greg and I met in the early 90’s at a spot here in Brooklyn, formerly known as Dean Street Cafe, now Tavern on Dean, which I still frequent. Then it was a live music/restaurant/bar. The music is no longer live but the food is good and the drinks are tasty! At that time there was Open Mic Nite and Greg said he’d heard about me, and thought I was a great singer and suggested we work together. I sang one night and he insisted we work together…and the rest is history. What we share is divine. You can’t find that special something with everyone. That thing when I sing a melody or a bass line or lyric and he goes to the keyboard and plays the exact chord structure that I’m hearing in my head. It’s almost scary. :-)
Greg is also Noel Pointer’s former musical director. That alone speaks volumes. Extremely talented brutha. And beautiful person. He’s one of my best friends. And his wife is also a sweetie for putting up with us ! lol

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an interview with Sandra St. Victor


Some ten years ago I’m sure I would’ve thought that anyone, who would’ve told me that in ten years time I’d have a music site and I would publish an interview with one of my favourite singers, is ready for a lunatic asylum. Back then Sandra St. Victor was with Warner Brothers who had just released her Mack Diva Saves The World album. And we all know how major labels like to protect their artists from their fans and besides in 1996 I didn’t even know how to spell internet. So in some ways it was good that Sandra St. Victor became an independent artist after Warner dropped her. This way it’s much easier to get in contact with her. Well, to cut a long story short, here’s finally the jazz-not-jazz interview with the Mack Diva, Sandra St. Victor.
Since I’m a fan of Sandra since the day I bought a copy of the Evon Geffries & The Stand release Sex w/o Love, there are a few more questions than usually. And watch this site for an interview with Peter Lord and Jeffrey Smith coming in the near future with more questions about their new album Super Sol Nova which is scheduled for a release this autumn.
And for some Sandra St. Victor live on stage together with the Daughters Of Soul visit fabchannel.com. They’ve put a 2 1/2 hour concert online. [By the way you can also watch concerts on Fabchannel with other artists featured on jazz-not-jazz like Amp Fiddler, Julie Dexter (with the Flowriders), Rahsaan Patterson, Mark De Clive-Lowe or Legends Of The Underground.]

Q: Recently you’ve been busy with the Daughters Of Soul. Please tell me more about the live gigs you did with Lalah Hathaway, Simone, Indira Khan, Leah McCrae, Joyce Kennedy, Nona Hendryx and Caron Wheeler.

Sandra St. Victor: Daughters of Soul is a pet project of mine that I’ve wanted to for almost five years before it actually happened. I have so many great friends that I’d never worked with, but we both wanted to. Also, I thought that putting interesting people together on stage is always fun! The experience was more than I thought it would be. These shows were and are exceptional. The women are true professionals, and consumate performers. Especially Nona and Joyce, We all learn so much from them. Our audiences seem to be dazzled for the entire show! It’s over two hours long, and people still beg for more encores, absolutely fantastic.

Q: Is the Daughters Of Soul project only a project for live gigs or do you plan to record an album in the future as well?

Sandra St. Victor: We’re working on a DVD and an album now.

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Bernadette Cooper Drama According To Bernadette Cooper


When you listen to a record after quite some time and you find yourself remembering all the lyrics by heart, this album was/is surely one of your favourite albums. And Drama According To Bernadette Cooper by - guess who - Bernadette Cooper is such an album for me. While the music itself may sound a little bit dated in 2006 this album is still burried somewhere deep inside my best of lists. Bernadette herself was never the best singer out there (well, compared to the Arethas, Sandra St. Victors, Carmen Lundys or even Whitney Houstons out there).

But that was never important even at the times when Bernadette was an integral part of Klymaxx, the all american girl group that pleased us with such funk corkers like Meeting In The Ladies Room, The Men all Pause, Divas Need Love Too, Sexy or Fashion. She made more than up for it with her attitude and originality. And let’s not forget she was one of the few women who produced a wide range of artists like Klymaxx, Mazarati, Madame X, Alisa Randolph, Nia Peebles or Altitude and even appeared on two Teena Marie albums (Crocodile Tears on Naked To The World and Sugar Shack on Ivory).

Her 1990 released masterpiece marked a highlight in her career and an at that time unusal creative freedom granted by a major label (MCA). Bernadette wrote, produced, co-executive produced, co-engineered, co-mixed, co-edited the whole album and even created the album concept with Glen Wexler. And if you have a closer look at the cover you see a woman in a straight jacket in front of a movie theatre showing her own flick Drama According To Bernadette Cooper. The whole CD booklet is made up as a movie with twelve short cuts split up in two acts. Fans of Bernadette already knew from her Klymaxx days that she was a little bit spaced out. Who else could sing Don’t slap me, ‘Cause I’m not in the mood and name her production company Slap Me One! Productions and get away with it? So the straight jacket on the album’s cover may be quite appropriate. Regarding the roles she plays on this album it is surely an apt clothing.

She’s the self-conscious woman in I Look Good (An Interview With Bernadette Cooper), the willing love slave in Stupid, who disconnects her telephone to hear no more lies about her lover and who gives everything to him although she’s not so sure about giving him his Aretha Franklin collection. She’s the woman from the agency (The Agency Sent Me), the down-to-earth woman who knows that love and sex are two different things and that bills have to be paid, so why not hook up with a millionaire from Textas (The Howard Hughes Sitcom [Christmas everyday!]) and she will work out a masterplan to get her former lover back (Nothin’ You Can Do). Back in the late 80s/early 90s Bernadette was really hot as in everybody liked to work with her. So she’s supported by a cast of thousands. There’s Loreena ‘Lungs’ Shelby, Pennye Ford, Alisa Randolph, Chuckii Booker, Thia Austin, Phineas Newborn III, Amp Fiddler, Teena Marie and John Patitucci to name but a few.
In my opinion this is still, sixteen years after its release, quite an amazing album especially if you listen closely to it to discover all the goodies Bernadette has put into it.
And what is she doing now? According to klymaxx.org she owns a vintage clothing store with clothes dating back to the 1900’s, that she also operates. And in 2006 Bernadette has finally reunited with Joyce ‘Fenderella’ Irby to record a new Klymaxx album, which should be finished in a few weeks.

Tracklisting of Drama According To Bernadette Cooper: 1. I Look Good (An Interview With Bernadette Cooper)/ Do You Really Know What Love Is/ 3. Stupid/ 4. The Underground/ 5. The Agency Sent Me/ 6. Let’s Be Discreet/ 7. Drama According To Bernadette Cooper/ 8. I’m That Girl/ 9. The Howard Hughes Sitcom/ 10. Straight Jacket (Love Affair)/ 11. Nothin’ You Can Do/ 12. Movie Produce Her | released 1990 MCA Records

For more infos visit myspace.com/bernadettecooper and myspace.com/therealklymaxx.

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Karen Bernod Life At 360 Degrees


Is it really some sixteen years ago when Tribal House released Motherland? That was actually the first time I’ve heard Karen Bernod sing. Together with Pierre Salandy she also appeared one year later in 1991 on the house corker Mainline. Then it took some eight years until I heard Karen again on lead vocals [she did some background vocals on tracks like Beautiful People, Stay Together (both by Barbara Tucker) or on Erykah Badu’s Live album though], this time as a session singer on Incognito’s No Time Like The Future album (on Marrakech and More of Myself). And in 2000 she finally released her first solo album Some Othaness For U on her own Natively Creative imprint. Unfortunately this meant it was an hard to get album with almost zero promotion and distribution. Luckily I bought a copy while I was visiting London around that time. And just when I thought that would’ve been everything I could hear by Karen she finally surfaces with her sophomore album Life @ 360 Degrees. And thanks to Peter and Santosh at Dome Records in the UK, who licensed the album for a release from Karen’s Natively Creative Music Inc., there will be some promotion this time and folks in Europe should be able to buy this release in a normal record store.
Six years are a long time, almost an eternity in a world that becomes more and more fast moving where almost everyone just looks for the next thrill without demanding some realness and depth. But Life @ 360 Degrees is really worth the wait and it’s good to have Karen back as a solo artist. Although there have been thousands of new soul artists and albums since the release of Some Othaness For U (and this website, which started in late 2000 by the way, just shows you a small selection) there’s still enough room for Karen’s unique blend of real soul music.
The whole album has a welcome uplifting, cheerful vibe with no fillers in sight. The midtempo winners Love Is and Hair I Am set the mood and are a good indicator of the rest of the album. The metropolitan and funny Subway Love Game with tight background vocals by Carlos Ricketts, Shelene Thomas, John James and Keith Fluitt is a good example of an infectious midtempo Karen Bernod song and somehow Karen’s homage to public transport in NYC. The aptly titled African Chant (Roots Of Nature) is a fine percussive song with percussions by Bashiri Johnson.
One of my favourite songs is the smooth ultra soulful Dreamer. Never since Saturday Love by Cherrelle (& Alexander O’Neal) has a mentioning of the seven weekdays sounded so good. Actually the encouragement of dreaming appears every now and then in art. Langston Hughes for example states in his poem Dreams: “Hold fast to dreams/ For if dreams die/ Life is a broken-winged bird/ That cannot fly.” And the late Nina Simone once sang in The PusherAnd lord knows we need lots a sweet dreams.” So Karen is obviously in good company as a dreamer.
Another highlight is Family, a great and personal ode to the family as safe harbour and place to feel loved and understood. With Shelene Thomas and Carlos Ricketts on background vocals this song has an inspiring gospel tinged ending. One of the best songs Karen wrote with Greg Spooner on this album!
Add to this other exquisite songs like Comfort Zone, Tell ‘Em Let ‘Em know or the house remix of Spirit, which originally appeared on Some Otheness For U, and you have another strong album by Dome Records and a more than welcome return of Karen Bernod.

Tracklisting of Life @ 360 Degrees: 1. Love Is/ 2. Hair I Am/ 3. Subway Love Game/ 4. Comfort Zone/ 5. You/ 6. Ma, Renee & Me (Interlude)/7. African Chant (Roots Of Nature)/ 8. Tell ‘Em Let ‘Em Know/ 9. Truth Iz/ 10. Dreamer/ 11. Family/ 12. Spirit (Deeper Remix) | released May 15th, 2006 by Dome Records

For more infos visit nativelycreative.com, domerecords.co.uk and myspace.com/karenbernod.

[If you want to discuss Karen Bernod’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

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William Scott Who’s Afraid of William Scott?


Regular readers of jazz-not-jazz certainly know my desire for music that moves more than your body, for music with a political message. And an album that offers more than one political alibi track these days seems to be as rare as humane working condition in Chinese sweatshops. Well, Who’s Afraid Of William Scott is one of these rare albums that combines a message with a fresh blend of soul, R&B, hip hop and pop which at its best evokes memories of soul music’s halcyon days and Stevie, Curtis, Donny or Marvin.
William Scott labels his music as FreeSoul. Maybe it’s free because he’s proud to be black and gay and he isn’t afraid to mention this in his songs (namely Invisible Man). As most fans of black music may know there are quite a few gay singers/musicians but most of them are still in the closet and can’t be seen like invisible men, because they think they may lose their fans, sell less records, lose their record contracts, lose their friends (the term friend is used very loosely here because a real friend would of course stay through thick and thin) or whatever when they’s come out of the closet. So the late Sylvester is still the first who comes to people’s mind when talking about gay black artists. Maybe it was/is still easier these days to be open with your sexuality in the disco/dance music genre. It’s certainly harder in the more homophobic world of hip hop.
However, with the recent announcement that Sony Music launches a gay record label it looks like someone told them that gay people have a lot of money to spend. And with the rootkit desaster we all know how devoid of scruples Sony BMG Music is when it comes to making money. Maybe if CBS/Columbia would’ve come up with a gay label in 1969 (there was no Sony record label back then) it would’ve been innovative and maybe helpful for gay liberation. But in 2006? This is just a silly move from an almost dead dinosaur to make more cash.
Anyway, William Scott has released his debut album Who’s Afraid of William Scott? independently and thus had not to have meet any obligations but could decide freely what he wanted to sing about (another reason to call it FreeSoul).
The album starts with the soulful and pleading Mr. President. As a German, who doubts that just a change in the government without replacing the head himself is sufficient, I guess I rather don’t comment the line “Dear Mr.President we need a real change in the government/ Cause too many lives are spent on war please listen to my two cents“. All About Love is an inspiring uplifting soul song with a message straight out of the 70s (”If we are the higher species then/ Why is it boggling me that/ We can’t see what they see we can’t find a way to love/ Forget all the trivial stuff and/ Love whats inside of us/ So we can spread love to all man“). Act Like is a funky and catchy longing for the good ol’ days when black music actually had soul. In some way this is the musical translation of the article What the F**k Happened to Black Popular Music? by Kenny Drew, Jr.
You Are A Star is a soulful uptempo song with a slight house flavour and an uplifting message. William wrote this song in the awareness “that many people, minority groups such as African Americans and Homosexuals have not been affirmed by society [and] to give us that affirmation and self worth.
Songs like Revolution or Do It with their hip hop/R&B sound show that William Scott is musically really versatile and don’t want to be pinned. Although musically these songs miss the point for me (and the readers of jazz-not-jazz certainly know about my general problems with rap, urban and today’s R&B). But luckily things get deeper and soulful with tracks like Soul II Soul, Repetition, a beautiful song with just William and an acoustic guitar, or the midtempo delight More To Life. The albums closer, the downtempo soul/rock of Death To The Poet, is another winner and wouldn’t be out of place on an album by Carl Hancock-Rux.
All in all Who’s Afraid of William Scott? is an impressive and musically diverse debut and finally a much-needed album with a political message.

Tracklisting of Who’s Afraid of William Scott?: 1. The Dedication/ 2. Mr. President/ 3. All About Love/ 4. Act Like/ 5. Invisible Man/ 6. You Are A Star/ 7. Revolution/ 8. Little Drum and The Devil/ 9. Do It/ 10. Soul II Soul/ 11. Repetition/ 12. Hold On/ 13. More to Life/ 14. Death to the Poet/ 15. Freedom | released 2005 William Scott Davison

For more infos visit experiencewilliamscott.com and cdbaby.com.

[If you want to discuss the William Scott’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

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an interview with Mala Waldron


It’s been a month ago since I reviewed Mala Waldron’s album Always There. If you’re looking for inspiring music soul music with lots of jazz (or jazz music with lots of soul) then Always There is the album for you.
In her jazz-not-jazz interview Mala talks about the influence her parents had, why she dedicated three songs to family members and her Soulful Sound imprint amongst others.

Q: Both your parents are professional jazz musicians. How much have they influenced you to become a musician yourself? Did they try to push you in this direction?

Mala Waldron: Fortunately, neither of my parents tried to push me in that way. They seemed to take note of my natural affinity for it, giving me lots of encouragement. As a young child I used to watch my mother rehearsing for performances. Mom started me off with classical piano lessons at age 7 years. When I wasn’t practicing scales or some sonata, I would often go through her sheet music collection looking for something “cool” to play to impress my friends. Sometimes my father took my sister, Lauren, and I on tour with him in the summers. I remember one concert in particular, in Italy where he was scheduled to do a solo performance. I was about 13 years old and recall feeling frightened for him because there were thousands of people at this outdoor festival. I couldn’t imagine what he could do up there all alone to hold this audience’s attention. I saw him take the stage and in a matter of minutes, mesmerize the entire crowd. It was an amazing experience that made a lasting impression on me.

Q: You’ve had the chance to work and record an album with your late father. Please tell me more about this experience.

Mala Waldron: The first time my father and I worked together it was in 1995 during a tour of Japan. Jazz vocalist, Jeanne Lee was also on that tour with us. Dad turned 70 that year so I wrote a song for him called “He’s My Father” and gave it to him as a birthday gift. Later it became the title track of our CD. We decided to make a recording of the songs we were performing. We ended up going to a studio on one of our days off and recorded six tracks. I couldn’t imagine trying to accomplish so much in so little time, but Dad seemed so relaxed about it, I just followed his lead. I did “He’s My Father” and another original piece as solo piano/vocals. We recorded the rest of the tunes as piano duets on two grand pianos. One of my favorites from that recording is a free piece called “Cat and Mouse.” It was totally improvised from start to finish. We didn’t know beforehand what we’d play, but somehow it was decided that I would be the “mouse” and he’d be the “cat” — the rest just unfolded naturally.

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an interview with Kellylee Evans


Kellylee Evans recently impressed me with her all-original album Fight Or Flight?
And it looks Kellylee and I have more in common than just liking her music: Then, I proceeded to do my favourite thing - procrastinate. Well, I’m actually another person who likes to procrastinate things but finally I’ve found the time to copy & paste Kellylee’s jazz-not-jazz interview into my template. So keep on reading to learn more about how Kellylee started writing songs, why she recorded her debut album in NYC, what she had in mind when writing Enough or Rapunzel and much more.

Q: Please tell me something about yourself. When and why did you started singing and writing songs?

Kellylee Evans: I used to only sing standards. Even as a music listener, I found that I wasn’t open to listening to original music in jazz. Pop music, no problem, but for some reason I had this shut down mechanism when it came to jazz. I only wanted to hear songs that were familiar. And sing songs that were at least familiar to me.
I had this music theory teacher that kept telling me that I would never make any money as a singer if I didn’t write my own music. I thought you had to be a born writer. I had co-written a song as a teen with someone I knew, but I didn’t think I would be able to do it on my own. Still, I really respected this teacher and I went out and bought a bunch of books on songwriting. Then, I proceeded to do my favourite thing - procrastinate. I needed something really big to make me focus on writing.
That came one day after I had an ankle roll over playing tennis in the morning and almost ended up dying that evening. I had an allergic reaction to a common over-the-counter drug and went into anaphylactic shock. The next day, I started writing with a vengeance. One of my first songs, “I Don’t Want You To Love Me” ended up on the album. In fact, the album is all my first songs.

Q: Who has influenced and keeps influencing you musically?

Kellylee Evans: I was listening to Abbey Lincoln a lot initially, Sting…Shania Twain. When I say that, people cringe, but I love the way she is able to make songs that people really identify with. I think she’s great. I listen to a lot of soft rock, Coldplay, Keane, Rufus Wainwright, Feist. Every song I wrote seemed to come to me over a dancehall or calypso beat. That definitely speaks to my West Indian heritage (both my parents are from Jamaica). I have a very diverse musical collection - country, jazz, opera, classical, rock, pop, lots of pop, calypso.

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Kellylee Evans Fight Or Flight?


Canada is becoming more and more important upon the map of black music and the attentive readers of jazz-not-jazz surely remember Nick-e, Diane Taylor or LAL. Kellylee Evans is another Canadian who impresses with her debut album full of original songs.
Kellylee was born in Toronto but lives now just outside Ottawa, Ontario. Throughout the years, she performed at various talent shows and was a member of the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir. At the Carleton University she was part of a school jazz combo. Soon she realised that studying law may be fine but her heart was really with music and she eventually pursued a career in music.
And Flight Or Fight?, her debut album, is really an amazing start. To start with, there’s the well photographed cover (yes, I’m always a sucker for a great photo) and unlike most of her peers Kellylee relies only on the strength of her own compostitions.
Kellylee offers a unique blend of jazz, soul, blues and reggae and then some with a few pop overtones on her debut album. “I started getting into jazz before Diana Krall started getting big. Her success really floored me,” Kellylee says. “Growing up, I wanted to be a pop star, but when I started liking jazz so much, I realized I wasn’t going to be pop star famous, but then Diana’s success really got exciting.
The majority of the songs were produced by Lonnie Plaxico and Kellylee and recorded within two days in New York City (January 12-14 2004 to be exact). Only the first two songs were recorded in April 2005 (again in NYC, but co-produced by Carlos Henderson).
The album’s starter What About Me?, is a great haunting slow tune with fine acoustic guitar input by Carl Burnett. The subtle Lead Me Closer is of the same calibre.
The powerful Hooked provides a nice change with its rock influences. The heartfelt I Don’t Want You To Love Me is one of my favourite tracks, here we have a singer torn between one of the greatest emotion and the fear of getting hurt one day (”I don’t want you to love me no, no/ I can’t handle the thought that you would go/ It’s easier if we cut these ties that bind/ Ever tightening as days go by/ This may come as a surprise but/ I don’t want you to love me goodbye/ Don’t think of this as a fear to commit/ My therapist said there’d be days like this/ Though it seemed that our love would go stronger each day/ It did, but I fear this attachment to you/ I know I’m not meant to feel passion this was/ Just as I know that you won’t stay“)
But Kellylee’s lyrics can cut even deeper. On the Latin-tinged title Fight Or Flight? (Help Me, Help You) for example. “That song is all about seeing tragedy and people in need all around you, but not really wanting to get involved; not being sure how far you can get involved,” Kellylee says. “So many people of my generation, we feel apathetic. We feel like if we make a move we’re not gonna be able to effect any change.
The album continues with the bluesy I Don’t Think I Want To Know, which adds further proof to Kellylee’s musical diversity. There’s even some reggae thrown into Let’s Call A Truce Tonight and Rapunzel impresses with a mixture of Spanish and French folk.
Finally there are more traditional jazz songs with How Can You Get Along Without Me? or Enough, which explores jazz in the vicinity of soul music.
With these different influences and styles it may seem that Kellylee tries everything not to get pigeonholed and this album may lack coherence. Quite the contrary, it’s her distinctive voice and her personal lyrics that make this a well-rounded album. To sum it up, Fight Or Flight? is an exceptional and musically diverse debut album.

Tracklisting of Fight Or Flight?: 1. What About Me?/ 2. Lead Me Closer/ 3. Hooked/ 4. I Don’t Want You To Love Me/ 5. Fight Or Flight? (Help Me, Help Me)/ 6. I Don’t Want To Know/ 7. Let’s Call A Truce Tonight/ 8. Rapunzel/ 9. How Can You Get Along Without Me?/ 10. Enough/ 11. Who Knows/ 12. What About Me (Bonus Track) | released May 2006 by Enliven! Media

For more infos visit kellyleeevans.com and cdbaby.com.

[If you want to discuss Kellylee Evans’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

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an interview with Alesia Dessau from Natural Selection


It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed Natural Selection’s debut album Come On Over…and just like their debut album followed the maxim good things come to those who wait the interview just needed a little time.
So here’s your chance to learn more about Alesia Dessau and her band Natural Selection.

Q: Natural Selection exists since 1996. Congratulations to your 10th anniversary by the way. Please tell me more about these ten years. Your website says you started as a jazz quartet. What did happen that made you change your sound?

Alesia Dessau: Thank you! I started singing jazz in restaurants for extra money while in college. I had written some songs and started bringing my charts to gigs. The musicians liked my music and that gave me the confidence to share more of my music. We then began to rearrange jazz standards and adding R&B songs such as “Feel Like Makin Love” by Roberta Flack and “Superstar” by Lauryn Hill to the sets. After college, it was hard to keep a band together, so I concentrated on writing songs while looking for new musicians.

Q: How would you describe Natural Selection’s music to someone who hasn’t heard you before? And who has influenced you in the ten years of existence.

Alesia Dessau: I would describe Natural Selection’s sound as “Original Soul”. Some of our influences are Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman, Incognito, Brand New Heavies and Stevie Wonder. Given the various backgrounds of the musicians of Natural Selection, our sound is truly eclectic. We mix a bit of R&B, funk, rock and hip hop into our sound…and it’s always groovin!

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Mala Waldron Always There


Music certainly runs in Mala Waldron’s family. Her dad was jazz pianist/composer Mal Waldron and Mala had the opportunity to play and record with her father. In 1995 while touring Japan Mala and her father Mal recorded an album entitled He’s My Father. Later Mala released her debut solo release, Lullabye. Both records were only released in Japan which makes Always There Mala’s first independent release in her home country USA.
Mala’s music has a pleasant warm and organic sound that combines the best of the soul and jazz world. Early records by Roberta Flack spring to mind or Vivienne McKone if you have to have a comparison. All songs except one were written and arranged by Mala. Some of the songs were written back in the mid 90s, some a few years ago so that Always There is like a Best Of of the Mala Waldron songbook.
Mala recorded Always There with a bunch of talented musicians she met over the years like bassist Miriam Sullivan, Steve Salerno (guitars) and Michael “T.A.” Thompson (drums, percussion).
The album starts with the soulful Whispers In The Wind, a great midtempo soul/jazz tune with fine keyboard playing by Mala. It may be hard to beat such a highlight but Because Of You shows no backlash. This beautiful midtempo soul song is about a new love that provides you with new energy and lets you see the world in a brighter light…ah, we all know this feeling and wish it may last forever.
Mala continue to deliver the good stuff with the album’s title track Always There, which is not a cover of the famous song by Ronnie Laws but an original composition by Mala. Always There is a slow, bluesy song that sees Mala pleading to a higher power to find “that the light still shines in this heart of mine“.
The delightful Too Good For Words provides a welcome change of pace. This swinging jazz song features some fine scatting by Mala.
Three of the songs are dedicated to Mala’s family members. The mellow, retrospective I Do Remember You is dedicated to her grandmother Mardi, while Ellie, an uptempo song with a scatting tour de force by Mala, is devoted to her mother. The heartfelt Proud Lion, finally, is her tribute to her father.
Add to this other highlights like the soulful Why (When I Say Goodbye), Can’t Stop Thinking About You or Mala’s inspiring rendition of The Door’s Light My Fire and you have a highly recommendable album full of quality soul and jazz tunes.

Tracklisting of Always There: 1. Whispers in the Wind/ 2. Because of You/ 3. Always There/ 4. Too Good For Words/ 5. I Do Remember You/ 6. Ellie/ 7. Why (When I say Goodbye)/ 8. Can’t Stop (Thinking About You)/ 9. Light My Fire/ 10. Proud Lion/ 11. Maybe It’s Not So | released 2006 by Soulful Sound Music

For more infos visit alwaysthere-cd.com, soulfulsound.com and cdbaby.com.

[edit: Mala Waldron will host a CD Release Event/Concert at The Jazz Standard, 116 E. 27th Street, New York, NY, on Monday, March 27, 2006, 7:30 pm & 9:30 pm sets, $15 cover, no minimum.]

[If you want to discuss Mala Waldron’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

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Soul Lounge 2


Of course the Soul Lounge imprint and this second release are a vehicle for UK’s Dome Records to take advantage of their impressive back catalogue of quality soul music. But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill let’s-try-to-make-some-money-with-our-old-records-sampler. Just take a look at the track listing below. For the price of a single CD you not only get three CDs with a few of Dome Records best releases, but you also get three previously unreleased songs (Rahsaan Patterson’s Right Away, Incognito’s All I Want Is You and Full Flava feat. Ce Ce Peniston with You Are The Universe - a cover of the Brand New Heavies song), a song from the just released UK version of Martha Redbone’s album Skintalk (the already classic soul song Atlas) plus songs from other labels like BKO (Bah Samba’s great cover of Teena Marie’s Portuguese Love), One Two Records or Intimate (Cry, maybe the best track from Chris Ballin’s hard to find album Do It Right).
Avid Readers of jazz-not-jazz will be familiar with most artists featured on this compilation because their records have been reviewed on this site over the past years. In fact, this gives me a welcome opportunity to link to my reviews of Donna Gardier’s Home, Rahsaan Patterson’s After Hours, Conya Doss’ Just Because, Rosie Gaines’ You Gave Me Freedom, Don-e’s Try This, George Duke’s Duke, Seek’s Journey Into Day, Full Flava’s Colour Of My Soul, Angela Johnson’s Got To Let It Go, Frank McComb’s The Truth, Bah Samba’s 4 and Carleen Anderson’s Soul Providence. If you’ve missed these artists Soul Lounge 2 is an inexpensive way to discover these artists and to get a few extras. This compilation is certainly the value for money winner this year.

Tracklisting of Soul Lounge 2:
Disc 1:
1. Make You Smile - Brenda Russell/ 2. My Life - Chanel/ 3. Gonna Get Over You - Beverlei Brown/ 4. Heads Up (Soul 101 Remix) - Avani/ 5. Just A Matter Of Time - Hill St. Soul/ 6. Right Away - Rahsaan Patterson/ 7. All I Want Is you - Incognito/ 8. Atlas - Martha Redbone/ 9. Just Because - Conya Doss/ 10. I Can’t Get You Off My Mind - Rosie Gaines/ 11. Bus Stop - Don E/ 12. Moving On Up - Beverley Knight/ 13. Superwoman - George Duke/ 14. Lose My Kool - Donald McCollum/ 15. Cry - Chris Ballin
Disc 2:
1. Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me - Full Flava/ 2. Believe Me - Seek/ 3. Hypnotic Love - Maysa/ 4. Too Cool For The Room - Brenda Russell/ 5. All I Need - Angela Johnson/ 6. Whatcha Gonna Do - Frank McComb/ 7. No Reason - Don E & Omar/ 8. Home - Donna Gardier/ 9. Waiting’s Over - Avani/ 10. You Are The Universe - Full Flava feat. Ce Ce Peniston/ 11. This I Promise You - D’Influence & Shola Ama/ 12. Holding On - Intimate Voices & Shaun Escoffery/ 13. When A Woman’s In Love - Jones Girls/ 14. Paradise - Hil St. Soul/ 15. Angel - Dennis Taylor
Disc 3:
1. Portuguese Love - Bah Samba/ 2. Free (Louie Vega Remix) - Stephanie Mills/ 3. My Door Is Open - Carleen Anderson/ 4. U Don’t Want My Love - Donald McCollum/ 5. Don’t Be Afraid - Cooly’s Hot Box/ 6. Whatever It Takes - Angela Johnson/ 7. 25th Chapter - Incognito/ 8. Too Much Too Late - Dee Johnson/ 9. Rescue Me (Taste Of Flava Mix) - Full Flava & Hazel Fernandes/ 10. Love Is Found - Richard Darbyshire
released 2006 Soul Lunge Records

For more infos visit domerecords.co.uk.

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DJ Spinna feat. Heavy We Can Change This World


Vincent “DJ Spinna” Williams surely needs no introduction to the discerning listener. I’m sure you’ve listened to one of his songs or remixes over the past years. Whether it’s his version of Shaun Escoffery’s Days Like This, Mark De Clive-Lowe’s Day By Day, Fertile Ground’s Live In The Light, Cooly’s Hot Box Make Me Happy or Donnie’s Cloud 9, DJ Spinna is one of the rare musicians/remixer who can play convincingly in the house, soul and hip hop arena.
For his new single We Can Change This World he has teamed up with the NY duo Nicky Guiland and Casey Benjamin aka Heavy. DJ Spinna’s own Club Mix is a massively flowing modern soul/broken beats/house hybrid. Osunlade takes us on a deeper musical excursion with his Yoruba Soul Mix which makes this an instant winner for any deep house dancefloor in the weeks to come.
We Can Change This World is a fine piece of 21st century soul. And I just love the title…it’s all about being united to reach a critical mass and to have an impact on society.
Hopefully, DJ Spinna’s Intergalactic Soul album, that’s scheduled for a early summer release on Papa Records, will contain more songs of this calibre.

Tracklisting of We Can Change This World: A1. We Can Change This World (Club Mix)/ A2. We Can Change This World (Club Instrumental Mix)/ AA1. We Can Change This World (Yoruba Soul Mix)/ AA2. We Can Change This World (Yoruba Soul Instrumental Mix) | released 2006 by Papa Records

For more infos visit djspinna.com, paparecords.co.uk and heavymusic.net.

[If you want to discuss DJ Spinna’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

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an interview with Kim Leachman and Steve Wright (daysahead)


About a month ago I praised the album Turning Point by the band daysahead, which impressed me with their unique sound. In their jazz-not-jazz interview Kim Leachman and Steve Wright from daysahead explain why they hardly use any keys on their debut album, how they’ve met, talk about the turning points in their lives and much more.
By the way, here’s your chance to download a video of Falling Flower (it’s a mov file so you should have Quicktime, Quicktime Alternative, vlc or jetAudio installed). The Soundstage site of tbsstoryline.com also offers videos of other music acts from Atlanta like Anthony David for example.

Q: Please tell me how you’ve met and how you’ve founded daysahead.

Steve Wright: Kim (Baton Rouge, LA) and I (Richmond, VA) were working as backup for Aezra Records recording artist, Crea. I was playing electric guitar and Kim was singing background vocals. Her voice caught my attention and stood out above the other vocalists. I approached her to demo a few songs I’d written. Well, our first session proved that she could write in addition to sing and we instantly knew that we had to start our own band. Kim and I immediately started writing for our debut album. I called on some musician friends and we started recording. We are fortunate to have worked with some great musicians on Turning Point including drummers James Barrett and Joe Lee, and bassists Myron Carroll, Jeff Smith, and Aaron Clay. The current band is Kim and myself with James Barrett (drummer from Baton Rouge, LA who played on 6 tunes on Turning Point) who is versatile with rock solid tempo, and Brandon Gilliard (bassist from Anderson, SC) who is extremely talented and a strong improviser with nice groovability. This rhythm section will make any band sound good!

Q: Is daysahead a duo with two regular additional musicians or do you consider yourself more as a band with four members?

Kim Leachman: Although Steve and I are the band leaders, we consider our musical talents equal to James and Brandon’s. We have a team mentality. daysahead performs as a duo with Steve and myself, a four piece with James and Brandon, and on occasion we’ll add background vocalists and a percussionist.

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